Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules
Lupe Lopez is ready to rock and roll her way into kindergarten. Fresh from a summer of drumming and perfecting her hip new look, she knows all rock stars make their own rules. Lupe is committed to never letting anyone tell her what to do, being as loud as possible and making “fans, not friends.” Unsurprisingly, this works great for Lupe—but not so well for Ms. Quintanilla, Lupe’s new teacher.
Little by little, Lupe learns that even rock stars have to adhere to the rules (sometimes). Drumming belongs more on a stage than in the classroom, and friends are much better than fans—especially when they start a band together! Best of all, Lupe finds a way to remain the one-of-a-kind, “Texas-size” kindergarten rock star she is.
Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules is a fun, fresh addition to the back-to-school picture book canon. It’s perfect for young readers who march to the beat of their own drums but may benefit from a gentle reminder to respect the needs of others around them.
Lupe is the brainchild of a picture book dream team: co-writers e.E Charlton-Trujillo and Pat Zietlow Miller (Be Kind), and illustrator Joe Cepeda. Stonewall Award-winning Charlton-Trujillo’s influence as a South Texas native is clear in the familiar and joyful portrait of Lupe’s predominantly Latinx Hector P. Garcia Elementary school, complete with the requisite map of Texas on the classroom wall and bilingual labeling of classroom objects. (Don’t miss the nod to legendary Tejano musician Selena in Ms. Quintanilla’s name.)
Zietlow Miller’s signature voice contributes to the story’s rhythm and narrative structure, both of which make Lupe Lopez: Rock Star Rules an excellent read-aloud. Children will love drumming along with Lupe when she shouts “¡Ran! ¡Rataplán! Boom-tica-bam! ¡Pit-a-pat. Rat-a-tat. Wham-wham-wham! ¡Soy famosa!”
Pura Belpré Honor recipient Cepeda’s crisp, classical illustration style is perfect for a story with this much heart. He spares no detail in bringing Lupe to life on the page, right down to the pigtails in her hair and the pencils she uses for her drumsticks.
Together, Charlton-Trujillo, Zietlow Miller and Cepeda have created an unforgettable heroine who will leap off the page and right onto your bookshelf. Fans of feisty heroines such as Russell and Lillian Hoban’s Frances, Ian Falconer’s Olivia and Monica Brown and Sara Palacios’ Marisol McDonald will be clamoring to join Lupe’s band.
One Boy Watching
As many children in rural areas know, living in the country often means being the first to board the school bus in the morning and the last to get dropped off at the end of the day. It means mornings of quiet reflection as the world wakes up and evenings spent on winding gravel roads toward home.
One Boy Watching is a nearly wordless picture book that opens as the sun is just barely beginning to rise, when a school bus arrives at a boy’s rural home. Some introductory descriptions follow the unnamed protagonist as he steps onto the bus (“Twenty-eight empty seats. . . . One bus at sunrise under an infinite sky.”), but the scene’s beauty can be found in the serene spaces between those phrases. The reader is invited to sit peacefully, to breathe deeply, to soak in the prismatic watercolor and colored pencil sunrise skies.
Author-illustrator Grant Snider, the creator of the popular webcomic “Incidental Comics,” reprises the same hushed feeling found in his earlier picture books, including What Color Is Night and What Sound Is Morning. His artistry seems simple: It’s light on distinct detail and heavy on bold lines, capturing the shapes of objects just barely visible in the early dawn, such as bulbous trees or the peak of a roof. Later spreads contain sights that will be familiar to rural school bus riders: pastures of hay bales, the glow of headlights in the early dawn, fields of rusted cars, water towers, the silhouettes of distant barns and feed silos.
The real wow factor, however, is in the quietly powerful way that Snider uses color. By blending colors, lines and shapes into one another, Snider mimics the blur of what children see from a bus window on the way to school. As the journey continues and more children board the bus, the reader can almost hear the sound of their laughter, the rumble of the bus’s engine and the wail of a train horn at the railroad crossing—all with hardly any words on the page.
Reserved, thoughtful readers who prefer to spend time lingering over illustrations or making up their own stories about the stories they read will especially appreciate One Boy Watching. It vividly conveys the experiences of those first-to-get-on, last-to-get-off students who witness a sunrise every morning and a sunset every evening as they mark the beginning and end of each school day.